Fatal Storm by Lee Driver - Read Online
Fatal Storm
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Summary

The Indiana Paranormal Investigators are spending a night in a gothic mansion on the outskirts of Cedar Point, Indiana. Four people are participating...only three remain in the morning. There have been other disappearances and homicides in the past connected with the mansion. And the one common denominator has been the weather. FATAL STORM finds Dagger and his entourage spending a night in the mansion to seek answers. But they get more than they bargain for as another storm builds on the horizon. The fifth book in the Chase Dagger series which combines mystery with elements of fantasy, horror, and sometimes science fiction. --"Shapeshifters are the stuff of high fantasy, but somehow Driver keeps things firmly in the real world."

Published: Full Moon Publishing LLC on
ISBN: 9780984635726
List price: $4.99
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Fatal Storm - Lee Driver

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Edition

Part One

Energy is neither created nor destroyed, it just changes form

Albert Einstein

(1879-1955)

- 1 -

The storm kicked into high gear battering the glass dome with rain so loud it echoed through the cavernous foyer. A figure on the stairs halted as lights flickered in a continuous pulse, as though the house itself were alive. She waited, not realizing she had been holding her breath, and then the lights gave one last wavering flash.

Great, she mumbled. Her fingers grappled for the railing as her foot cautiously sought the next stair. It’s just a little rain, she whispered, slowly working her way down the sweeping staircase. The foyer was the focal point of the house, reaching beyond the two stories to a glass dome. But the flashes of light played tricks on her eyes. Shadows appeared to linger on the second floor landing, jockeying for position at the railing to watch her careful descent. One minute she was contemplating how exquisite the aged mansion must have been during its heyday, the next she was imagining that every person who had ever lived here had just risen from the dust to watch her every move. She shivered at the thought and cursed herself for not checking the batteries in the flashlight.

A crash of thunder rumbled through the building like a never ending freight train. She could swear the entire staircase was vibrating. Lightning continued its spectacle, illuminating the foyer like headache-inducing strobe lights. Maybe it was the shadows or the flashes but for one sick moment she could swear the lightning was green.

She averted her gaze but the shadows downstairs looked just as menacing. She slapped the flashlight against her hand. How like her hosts to give her a flashlight with weak batteries. If she concentrated she could ignore the storm and focus on other sounds, like voices, heavy footsteps, or the clatter of equipment. Between the rumbles and clashes she should have heard something. Where was everyone? They should have stayed together, but it was her idea to go off on her own. The whole night had been boring until the storm. Then all hell broke loose. Were they hiding in a room waiting for her to run screaming into the night? She wouldn’t give them the satisfaction. She was a Monroe, dammit, and Monroes never back down from a challenge. She squared her shoulders and forged on.

Her fingers cautiously touched the banister, far be it for her to clamp her whole hand onto the years of caked dirt she had seen on most of the surfaces in the house. As her foot contacted the next step, she felt something rush past—a breeze, a shadow, which stopped her cold. It was just her imagination playing tricks, she reminded herself. Had to be. Maybe someone had opened the front door. But then a cold breath touched her cheek, bringing with it a wall of frigid air.

Stop him.

What? She gasped and whipped her arm around but it didn’t touch anything solid, only a cold that raised the hair on her arms. Her eyes peeled through the layers of darkness, and as the lightning flashed she could swear she saw a shadow next to her. Deep breath, she told herself. Stay calm.

The words came again, the breath cold and damp against her ear. When lightning flashed through the domed window, the shadow formed the shape of a man.

Stop him.

A scream caught in her throat. She tore down the staircase, losing her grip on the flashlight as it skipped and banged away from her grasp. She tried to remember the layout of the house. Was the library to the right or left? Did she leave her purse in the library or the living room? The thunder was so loud and continuous, she doubted the others heard the commotion in the foyer.

The floor came up quickly. Her feet touched a cylindrical object sending her sprawling onto the cold marble. Damn, why did I have to wear my good leather slacks? Heeled boots wasn’t a smart choice of footwear, either. But she had wanted to look her best for the photographer who had taken pictures earlier. He was the smart one having left while there was still daylight.

She stole another glance at the domed window where the green sky turned in a dizzying circular pattern. Where was the lightning now when she needed it most? Which way was the entrance? She scrambled to her feet, embarrassed at her own show of fear. With arms outstretched to keep from plowing into a wall, she ran, expecting to reach the entryway but her toe struck something solid, a partial threshold or step. Her body crashed against a wall and then she was falling, too stunned to try to catch herself. She had visions of sailing down a flight of basement stairs and gave a quick assessment as to which part of her body she could afford to injure. Too quickly her head slammed against a hard surface. The lightning decided it had had a long enough break and commenced its macabre show, sending shadows darting and swimming in front of her eyes. But before she passed out Sheila could swear she wasn’t alone.

- 2 -

We should have brought out the candles before the storm started. Venus fumbled with the box of matches. The tip flared. She lit three pillar candles then froze. Did you hear a scream?

Josh straightened, tilted his head. Tufts of hair stood erect on the top of his head, his shadow creating devil’s horns. Venus had to turn away because the flickering and dancing of the candlelight made the image too realistic. I didn’t hear anything. It’s probably the wind. Let’s get these candles to the library.

They moved quickly down the hallway, through the foyer and into the room to the right of the sweeping staircase. Venus kept her eyes straight ahead, avoiding the patches of dark surrounding them. Once in the library they located more candles and placed them on the tables and the fireplace mantle. Heavy velvet swags held the drapes open allowing the lightning to illuminate the room.

The storm had whipped into an angry frenzy, sending torrents of rain against the tall windows. The thunder and lightning display barely paused for a collective sigh before starting up again. The mansion seemed to amplify the sounds, sending them bouncing from one room to the next.

Did you hear that? Venus asked. A cry, faint at first, could barely be heard over nature’s ruckus. It wasn’t a scream this time, but a soft voice, a child’s voice.

Shhhhh. He ducked behind the tripod and peered through an infrared camera, the hair on his arms bristling as a bolt of lightning struck near the house.

But you did hear it, right? Venus gathered her long skirt around her as though it could shield her from whatever evil lurked in the house. She straightened and took a step forward. What is your name? she called out. Tell us why you are crying. She had already tried contacting the girl when they were upstairs in the child’s bedroom.

Try again, Venus. The lanky man hovered over the camera while keeping one eye on the EVP recorder.

Did you used to live here? Venus shook her head and whispered, I should have done a seance, Josh.

Wait. Josh raised his head. She said her name.

They cocked their heads, straining to hear. The storm was so loud it was a wonder they could concentrate. Venus tried again. I’m sorry, honey. What did you say?

The candles in the room flickered and swayed. Shadows darted around furniture and into corners, playing some weird game of hide and seek.

Julia

A squeal caught in Venus’ throat. She tugged on Josh’s sleeve. Did you hear her say her name?

Mommy?

Oh lord, Josh moaned. I hope our equipment is picking this up. Where is Miss Monroe? She should be witnessing this.

Lightning bolts flashed like fiery shards of glass, followed by rolling clashes of thunder. The sky outside had turned a repulsive shade of green with menacing dark clouds plowing across the landscape. Then the camera died along with the recorder.

What the hell? Josh flipped the on/off switch. The battery backup went out on both. He raised the walkie-talkie to his lips but that wouldn’t work either. First the electricity, now the batteries? What’s up with that?

They heard a clattering of footsteps pounding down the staircase and into the library. Hey. What the hell happened to the cameras and recorders?

Take off those silly glasses, Flea, Venus sniped. You scared me half to death.

I would have never made it down the stairs without the night vision goggles. Flea ripped the goggles off his face almost pulling his wire-rimmed glasses with them. Boring as hell upstairs. Not a creature stirring.

Well, we have some action down here, Josh said.

Venus rubbed her hands over the lit candles trying to add some warmth to her body. I’m getting bad vibes from this house. As though in response, the lightning and thunder increased.

You’ve been saying that since we pulled up in the van. Josh removed the battery pack from the camera and replaced it with a new one. He looked past Flea’s shoulder. Where’s Blondie?

Flea shrugged. She went off on her own half an hour ago. Said she didn’t need a babysitter.

Well, everything’s out again, Josh reported. And this time we lost the batteries, too.

I noticed that. You didn’t recharge them.

Like hell. I always charge them.

Josh looked at the chaos outside the windows. Horizontal rain bent the trees. Branches blew across the landscape, tumbling end over end. Through the flashes of light they could see a strange mist crawling across the lawn, rising up as though sniffing the air, then floating back down.

Is there a tornado coming? We don’t even have a radio to warn us. Venus checked the various pieces of equipment scattered around the table, most of which she didn’t have a clue how they worked or what they did.

Josh motioned to Flea. Grab a candle. Let’s see if we can find Miss Monroe.

They moved in unison to the large foyer. Flea raised the candle and shouted, BLONDIE.

Venus hung onto Josh’s shirttail. Don’t leave me behind.

What kind of professionals are we? Josh looked at his two partners. We have been doing this for two years. One thunderstorm and we’re like a bunch of amateur teens sneaking into an abandoned house. We were hired to do a job so lets do it professionally.

You’re right, Flea said in agreement. But I suggest we not separate.

A loud clang echoed near the front door causing even Josh to gasp in response. The three formed a tight cluster as they stumbled into the entryway. Near the front door a grandfather clock banged, its pendulum slowly keeping tempo.

What the? How did...? Flea stammered. We were told that thing hasn’t worked in years. They watched and waited as it finished its tune and clanged three times. Venus could feel her heart clanging in time with the clock. Everyone remained rooted, not sure what was going to happen next.

Josh cleared his throat. Why don’t we check to see if her car is still here. They moved as though tethered together by a very short rope. Flea pulled the front door open, the wind almost wrestling the door from his grasp. The silver Jaguar was still parked in the circular drive.

Now what? Flea asked as he forced the door closed.

Venus pulled her phone from her pocket. Anyone know her cell phone number?

The two men exchanged looks. You’re the one she called, Flea told Josh.

Yeah, but I only had her office number. Besides, the cell towers are out, too.

Venus studied the screen on her phone. You’re right. No service.

Let’s start upstairs. Josh steered them back to the staircase. She was sucking down that wine pretty good. She’s probably passed out in one of the bedrooms.

Outside the storm clouds gathered over the mansion, slowly circling. Lightning shot through the mass from different directions, looking for the tallest structures. Inside the mansion three people were unaware of the power that had gathered nor the danger they had barely escaped.

- 3 -

Simon set the stack of mail on Dagger’s desk and motioned with his chin past the wall of windows. The landscape was awash in vibrant fall colors. Trees were clinging to their leaves, unwilling to let last night’s storm wrestle them from their branches. Dagger was walking the acres, a noticeable limp impeding his progress. The vegetable garden had already given up its bounty for the year. Sara had left him to his healing while she had prepared the garden for fall.

He don’t look so good.

Sara couldn’t argue with that. But she was sure his problems were more mental than physical. Although the gun shot wound had miraculously healed, Dagger’s ribs had taken longer to return to normal. He gets stiff when he overdoes it.

Simon trailed her to the kitchen. Still quiet. Too damn quiet. And when he does talk, he’s short-tempered.

He doesn’t sleep well. Sara pulled cups from the cupboard and set them on the granite table. She opened the oven and checked the contents. Can you stay for bacon and vegetable quiche? I don’t think Eunie will mind. You look like you’ve lost a few pounds.

Simon pulled out a chair and hefted his bulk down, patting his stomach. Yeah, my bulk isn’t as bulky as before. Got coffee cake to wash down the quiche?

Will miniature cream puffs work?

Simon smiled, the gleam in his eyes making them twinkle. He poured a cup of coffee while Sara made herself tea. Tell me about the nightmares, Simon said.

Sara dipped her tea bag several times while contemplating exactly how much to tell Simon. The window over the sink let in a mild autumn breeze. Although temperatures were dipping into the fifties at night, they still hovered in the low seventies during the day. She tossed the tea bag into the garbage and took a seat at the table. Sara wanted to say, If you had been through what we had been through, you’d understand why both of us are having nightmares. But Simon was aware of what happened in Nebraska after she and Dagger had found the city